Research Activities

Evolution of Scholarly Communication

The field of scholarly communication has undergone significant change in recent years, with the introduction of digital technologies, financial pressures for academic institutions, and increased competition. As the environment shifts, the CISP works to identifying and understanding new challenges and opportunities that present themselves, in order to improve the processes of knowledge dissemination. Below are some of our ongoing projects in the area, and you can see our related publications here.

Understanding the Societal Impact of Research Through Social Media
As the communication of research increasingly takes place on social media platforms, there is enormous potential to capture and analyze digital traces left by scholars. This offers, for the first time, the opportunity to study at large scale—using both quantitative and qualitative methods—the processes of knowledge dissemination and co-creation between academia and the public. Taking advantage of this opportunity, this SSHRC-funded project asks: What is the nature and extent of societal impact of research that can be observed through the public’s engagement with research on social media? Read more here.
Assessing Current Practices in Tenure, Review and Promotion
One of the key components of workplace advancement at the university level are the review, promotion and tenure (RPT) packets that are typically submitted every other year by early career faculty. These guidelines and forms are considered to be of highest importance for all faculty, especially for early career faculty who need to demonstrate the value and impact of their work to the university and the broader scientific community. Quite often impact is equated with “impact factor,” leading many researchers to target a narrow range of journals at the expense of a broader societal considerations (such as the public’s right to access). The importance of RPT guidelines and forms makes them a natural place to effect change towards an opening of access to research (something both Canada and the US have been pushing for through federal policies and laws). While we believe changes in RPT guidelines and forms may provide the impetus for behavioral change, leading to broader interest and adoption of open access principles, the reality is that very little is known about current RPT practices as they relate to questions of openness. This project seeks to examine the RPT process in the U.S. and Canada in ways that can directly inform actions likely to translate into behavioural change and to a greater opening of research. Help by uploading your department’s or institutions RPT package and answering a few questions!
The Public Impact of Open Access in Latin America
As more of the world’s research is made freely available to the public, there is an increasing probability that the impact and reach of research extends beyond the confines of academia. To establish the current extent of public access, this study identifies the users of Latin American research—the vast majority of which is made freely available to the public—and their motivations for accessing the work by using a series of surveys, displayed to users of the two largest scholarly journal portals in Latin America. The results of the survey are available as an infographic.
Scholarly Monograph Futures
In 2014, the Andrew W Mellon Foundation launched a broad-based initiative to build digital capacity in the scholarly monograph publication ecosystem. The Mellon Foundation invited the CISP to provide an external evaluation of the funding initiative — with thirteen grantees from university presses, libraries, faculty and consulting groups — as a whole. The final report is based on consultations with the various grantees and the monograph community across North America. For more, please see our recent blog post; Report forthcoming, spring 2016.
Open Social Scholarship (INKE Collaboration)
In collaboration with the Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) research partnership based at the University of Victoria, this initiative seeks to prototype new forms of open, networked, scholarly communication via ‘publication in practice.’ How can INKE as a networked community capture its own ongoing discourse, rendering it durable, citeable, and reliable?
Scholarly and Research Communication Journal
Founded in 2010, Scholarly and Research Communication is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary, Open Access online journal that publishes original contributions to the understanding of production, dissemination, and usage of knowledge. It emphasizes the dynamics of representation and changing organizational elements, including technologically mediated workflows, ownership, and legal structures. Contributions are welcomed in all media and span formal research and analysis; technical reports and demonstrations; commentary, and review. For a full list of CISP hosted journals, click here.
Open Access Publishing Cooperative Project
Led by the Public Knowledge Project, this study seeks to gather data from journals and organizations to create a potential model of cooperative publishing with libraries. It will also undertake consultation with stakeholders, including the CISP, on what would make cooperatives work or not work, and develop open source infrastructure for co-op pilots to assess journal efficiency and quality through cooperative publishing on a global scale. The goal is to use what has been learned in the study to establish the principles and recommend the structures by which such cooperatives might help to bring about sustainable and universal open access to research and scholarship. Learn more at
CISP Press: Journal Services and R&D
In 1997 the Canadian Institute for Studies in Publishing convened a national conference on scholarly journal publishing in the context of what was then called, the serials pricing crisis. Since that time, the CISP has been active in scholarly journal publishing R&D. It facilitated the first online open publication of back issues of an established journal, the Canadian Journal of Communication in 1994. CISP has also provided insight over the years to the Canadian social science and humanities journal community. Currently, alongside helping to publish nine journals it is exploring the role and feasibility of media other than text in journal content and the role of professionalism as well as the dynamics of public sector and commercial ownership in scholarly journals. A list of those journals can be found here.


History of Publishing

With an half millennium of history to explore, the research interests under this theme are varied, but all seek to uncover how the practice of publishing has evolved over time, how it has been influenced by the world around it, and how it has influenced that world in turn. Below are some of our ongoing projects in the area, and you can see our related publications here.

Aldus @ SFU
2015 marked the 500th anniversary of the death of Venetian scholar-publisher Aldus Manutius, is in many ways the father of the modern book, given his many innovations in scholarly editing, printing, typography, and the business of publishing. SFU Library’s Special Collections and Rare Books division houses the Wosk-McDonald Aldine Collection; over 100 volumes from the Aldine press. In 2015, Publishing@SFU worked with the library to digitize twenty-one volumes published between 1501 and 1515, including key works from classical scholarship in their first ever printings. The project culminated in a prototype web exhibition at, which was launched in August 2015 as part of the annual conference of the Public Knowledge Project (PKP). See this blog post for a project overview.
Coach House Press: A History of Publishing Technology and Innovation
A wide-ranging inquiry tracing the early histories of technological change in Canadian publishing, largely centering on the pioneering digital innovation at Toronto’s Coach House Press in the 1970s and 1980s. This research blends cultural history with media archaeology and software studies.
The Intellectual Properties of Learning: From Saint Jerome to John Locke
This book-length project by John Willinsky seeks to establish how a prototypical form of intellectual property emerged from within medieval monasteries and cathedral schools, and all the more so through the universities, from the medieval to Early Modern era. This pre-history culminates with Locke’s theory of property and early copyright law at the turn of the seventeenth century. Both can be shown to support distinctions that still set learned intellectual properties apart from other sorts, and that tend to be lost sight of amid the current intellectual-property gold rush. View the project in progress and related publications.
How To Read a Magazine
Canada’s cultural heritage is going online. As a result, digital technologies increasingly inform the preservation and study of artefacts of the past. Periodical studies has particularly benefited from this shift: digitization projects make rare print archives widely accessible, while digitized magazines can be data mined and visualized, exposing patterns in decades-long runs that are invisible to the human eye. This project uses the recently digitized Western Home Monthly (1899-1932) as a testing ground for new methods of “distant reading” Canada’s historical magazines.


Design and Production

From print to digital, production is the hub where all publishing activities intersect. Research in the area considers the significance of published works as products, the production process and workflows, and how the design and materiality of texts influences audience reception. Below are some of our ongoing projects in the area, and you can see our related publications here.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: A case study of design and production values
Amanda Lastoria’s doctoral research project explores the industrial mediation of the text via the materiality, and material evolution, of the book. Using multiple editions of a single title – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – as a case study, it seeks to document, historicize and interrogate the ways in which the design and production values of the book multiply and diversify the markets and meanings of the text. The project combines methods and tools of bibliography, book history, publishing history, literary theory and design theory.
Text Processing Techniques & Traditions
A course offered at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute, University of Victoria, and co-presented by the CISP. June 6–10, 2016. Instructor: John Maxwell

More info:


Other Areas of Expertise

With expertise in both trade (book and magazine) and scholarly publishing, the CISP’s research covers a broad range of themes beyond those listed above, including the impact of digital technologies in the cultural sector; book, periodical, and digital media history; sociology of knowledge; open access; bibliometrics, and audience measurement. Below are some of our other ongoing projects, and you can see our related publications here.

Canada Council Benchmark Studies of Arts and Literary Magazines
In 2000, together with Canada’s national magazine association, Magazines Canada, the CISP’s Rowland Lorimer inaugurated an ongoing publishing and financial assessment of Canadian art and literary magazine business operations, specifically those that receive support from The Canada Council for the Arts. While the primary focus of such magazines is their content, these titles are also small business operations that purchase services, pay royalties, and build and maintain readerships. The object of the project is not to evaluate their business operations but to provide each title with detailed comparisons of its publishing data (print runs, readership, etc) and the nature and extent of its revenues and expenses with other titles large and small. The most recent report was released in 2014, with 2012 data, and can be found here.
Digital Feminist Counter-Publics
In 2016, the Internet is far from a safe space for women—even less so for trans women, women of colour, queer women, indigenous women, and women whose identities otherwise lie at the intersection of multiple forms of oppression. A forthcoming special issue of the open access journal Atlantis begins from that danger, but it also begins from the possibilities feminist publics and counterpublics actively foster, the communities they form, and the audiences they hail as they negotiate the incredibly fraught space of the Internet. Edited by Hannah McGregor, Marcelle Kosman, and Clare Mulcahy, the collection will incorporate work by feminist scholars including Jacqueline Wernimont, Michele White, and Erin Wunker, as well as interviews with activists Alicia Garza, Virgie Tovar, and the editorial collective of GUTS Canadian Feminist Magazine.


Recent Publications

Research Partnerships

PKP – The Public Knowledge Project is a multi-university initiative developing (free) open source software and conducting research to improve the quality and reach of scholarly publishing.

INKE – INKE is a collaborative group of researchers and graduate research assistants working with other organizations and partners to explore the digital humanities, electronic scholarly communication, and the affordances of electronic text.

Post-Doctoral Research

A postdoctoral fellow will be joining CISP during the summer. Information is coming soon. We are always interested in hosting other fellows, and welcome the opportunity to support your applications to fellowships that would allow you to work on projects related to the institute’s activities.

Graduate Research

The CISP’s Master of Publishing students engage in independent research throughout the program, on range of topics relevant to the publishing industry. Their work in the Publishing Industries and Technology and Evolving Forms of Publishing seminars is available publicly.

Following a 13-week internship, the students also complete a research project report designed to be of value to the host company, future students, and larger community of those who have an interest in publishing. These reports provide a unique view of current practices in publishing framed by what students learn in the masters program. A selection of these reports is available here.